Review of Seth Godin's Tribes

Seth recently wrote a book named Tribes, discussing the fusion of leadership, creating movements, and marketing based on word of mouth. Over the last year I have not read as many books as I would like to, but I am glad Seth wrote this one and am glad I took time out to read it. It is affordable and easy to read...I recommend you buy a copy today. :)

Here are my notes and quotes from the book

  • a Tribe needs a shared interest and a way to communicate
  • the marketplace embraces and rewards heretics "It's clearly more fun to make the rules than to follow them, and for the first time, it's also profitable, powerful, and productive to do just that."
  • growth for most new businesses comes from those who want to support change, rather than from competing businesses
  • creating a tighter tribe and/or "transforming the shared interest into a passionate goal and desire for change" usually leads to much more impact than trying to make a tribe bigger. beyond public relations and awareness related benefits, measuring the breadth of spread of an idea is not as important as looking at the depth of commitment and interaction of true fans, who end up being the people who recruit most new members
  • a movement consists of a story, a connection between the tribe and the leader, and something that needs to be done
  • "Life's too short to fight the forces of change. Life's too short to hate what you do all day. Life's way too short to make mediocre stuff. And almost everything that is standard is now viewed as mediocre." - killer quote for motivating people to embrace change
  • "Leadership is scarce because few people are willing to go through the discomfort required to lead. This scarcity makes leadership valuable."
  • "Ultimately, people are most easily led where they wanted to go all along." - a nice way of explaining the importance of bias in publishing
  • "When you fall in love with the system you lose the ability to grow."
  • "At first, the new thing is rarely as good as the old thing was. If you need the alternative to be better than the status quo from the very start, you'll never begin."
  • "Being charismatic doesn't make you a leader. Being a leader makes you charismatic."

And to appreciate how strong of a marketer Seth is, I somehow ended up with 3 copies of this book by launch date. I am not sure how that happened, but I think I got1 from Seth, 1 from, and 1 from speaking at a conference Seth spoke at. When I was first getting started on the web I read his book Purple Cow, and then bought a bunch of them in exchange for a one day training at his office. I was so stoked when I saw some of his marketing examples on the table matching things I took pictures of thinking they were good was an early sign that I might have had a chance of doing ok on the Internet. :) Thanks for the great books Seth!

I also felt very privledged to be speaking at a conference that guys like Seth and Jakob Nielson were speaking at. When I was speaking I looked out into the audience and saw Jakob Nielson and felt a bit weird about being the guy at the podium...I also remembered reading Jakob's Designing Web Usability when I first got started on the web...and that was only about 5 years ago.

This Internet thing can send a lot of good luck your way if you stick with it for a few years. :)

Published: October 29, 2008 by Aaron Wall in marketing


Liam Delahunty
October 29, 2008 - 12:06pm

Cheers Aaron, another one to add to the pile.

Another Seth Godin book I've recommended to clients many times is "The Big Red Fez", a short read on how to make any website better, it's from 2000 and still wholly relevant today.

October 29, 2008 - 4:14pm

That book is like a super-condensed version of Don't Make Me Think, from a conversion oriented marketer's perspective. It is thin on content (only like 50 pages + 50 pictures) but that is part of what makes it so memorable and so useful...he just points out serious web design flaw after serious web design flaw, and offers tips on how it can be done better.

October 29, 2008 - 12:51pm

Hey Aaron,



I particularly liked seth's Permission Marketing (Turning Strangers Into Friends And Friends Into Customers).

I believe turning strangers into long-term friends and customers is one the key ingredients to today's success. Of course, after we gotten their attention and attract them to us with seo and other stuff :)

Keep up the good work and have a nice day,

October 30, 2008 - 6:33am

Thanks for the recommendation Aaron.
I read Purple Cow a while ago based on your recommendation and thought it was excellent. I have since bought several copies for friends/colleagues. No doubt Tribes will be a good read.

October 30, 2008 - 4:59pm

Thanks for sharing, Aaron.

Very valuable insights for folks trying to build a niche community.

Shaping Youth
November 3, 2008 - 7:45am

I just linked to this post as the new Age of Conversation (237 bloggers/probono social media book)exemplifies a 'tribe' in itself...coming together to elicit change, just as Seth Godin described!

I was a Purple Cow pick (moooo!) and now am anxious to READ the Tribes book, since I feel like I'm LIVING it as part of this AOC2 global effort for Variety, the Children's Charity. It mirrors your notes above: "...A movement consists of a story, a connection between the tribe and the leader, and something that needs to be done" Check. Got it.

"...A Tribe needs a shared interest and a way to communicate" Yep. Last time we used our blogs to earn them $15,000...this time, who knows?! It'll be a fun ride. (and hey, as a token nonprofit, maybe I'll finally learn about SEO, since it's clearly not my strong suit!) ;-)

Thanks for the insight.

Amy Jussel
Founder/Exec. Dir.

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